Design in the Age of Anxiety

“Nothing distorts intent like anxiety. Anxiety pulls focus from the goal and lets energy flow towards distractions and perceived threats. Anxiety flourishes in the absence of information.”

Erika Hall, co-founder of Mule Design, has written an interesting piece on design, our anxieties, and the future titled “Design in the Age of Anxiety: To create a better future, understand the now.

I should point out that it’s interesting to me because I work in the field of design almost every day, specifically from the linguistic end, but the truth is that design is all around us in so many different forms (the font you’re currently reading this in, the shape of the device you’re reading it from, the colour palette of the walls/street/buildings surrounding you, and on it and on it goes).

“Design is exciting because it is the practice of shaping the future. Research requires the discipline of taking an honest look at the past and present. The present is a mess. It always is. But the present is the soil in which we grow our potential futures. Those who strive for innovation without inquiry will have trouble getting their ideas to thrive in the real world.”

Among Ms. Hall’s many other witty quips and observations, some of them included but were not limited to:

“The future spreads like cold butter.”

“Innovation takes hold when a new idea fits into existing habits like a key into a lock.”

“With the right information, delivered with care, anxiety dissipates.”

“Innovation without inquiry leads to trouble in the real world.”

And from her website:

“We don’t trust people who want to like us. They tell you what you want to hear. They choose friendship over criticism. And they don’t make your work better. To us, a compliment doesn’t count unless it’s given begrudgingly by someone who’d rather kick our asses.”


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